Cone Health announced its CEO and chief financial officer are stepping down while the health system works to close its merger with Sentara Healthcare.
Cone CEO Terry Akin will stay on until the merger with Sentara closes. That's expected to happen in mid-2021. CFO Jeff Jones will leave in February. The Greensboro, N.C.-based health system said both executives made the decisions "independently and for purely personal reasons."
"I want to be very clear that this is a personal life decision for me and has nothing at all to do with the planned merger," Akin said in a statement. He has been Cone's CEO since October 2014.
In the immediate term, Akin said he plans to take time off to decide what's next.
Jones has been Cone's CFO for eight years.
"This is entirely my decision," he said in a statement. "In fact, when organizations merge, it is relatively common for chief financial officers to step aside and make way for new leaders."
Cone's Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Mary Jo Cagle, will succeed Akin following the merger as president of the new system's Cone Health division. The health systems said in August when they announced the deal that Sentara CEO Howard Kern would become CEO of the new organization, which will retain Sentara's headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia.
Cagle joined Cone in 2011 as its chief quality officer and has been closely involved with the nearly two-year process leading to the merger, the system said. She will be the first woman and physician to lead Cone.
Andy Barrow, Cone's senior vice president of financial services, will replace Jones once he leaves. Barrow has been with Cone since 2012, and currently leads the organization's corporate finance, accounting and financial support functions.
Cone's Board Chairman, F.D. Hornaday, said in a statement that the board, while saddened, supports the executives' decisions.
"We are also confident that these changes, while significant, will draw upon strong internal talent and ensure good continuity of leadership for Cone Health into our merger with Sentara and through the exciting transitions that lay ahead," he said.
The merger between Cone and Sentara would form a 17-hospital system with $11.5 billion in annual revenue. Sentara is the larger of the two, with 12 hospitals and $6.8 billion in 2019 revenue. Cone has five hospitals and drew $2.2 billion in revenue in 2019. The CEOs of both organizations stressed that the deal is not an acquisition and it's not happening because of the COVID-19 pandemic.